Sleep. We all need it. Most get cranky without it, and our physical and mental health may very well depend upon it. In the February 27/March 6, 2017 issue of Time Magazine, Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley states that, “Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body for health.” (72)
When sleep is a topic of discussion, it always seems like someone can either plop their head on their pillow and be out for the night or will toss and turn most of the night and never feel like they are rested. There are the in betweens too: those who fall asleep right away, but wake up often or those who sleep, but don’t really get rest.
I love going to sleep and I’m one of those who can fall asleep pretty quickly. I know, you can hate me all you want, but sleep hasn’t always come easily. I look forward to my rest, my dreams, and my body needs at least 7-8 hours of it nightly. When I don’t get that sleep, I am one cranky lady. So I make sure I do what I need to get that rest.
Here are some ideas:
Put away the technology: Robert Stickgold, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School states in the same article that, “The biggest thing I do to improve my sleep is to pull the plug. It’s not easy. I made the decision that my sleep comes before catching up on my life. So when it’s 11 p.m., I turn off my email, phone and computer. Warm baths and warm milk also help.” (73)
A major decision that I mainly made, but my husband respected, was not putting a television in our bedroom. I never wanted to use TV to help me fall asleep. There is an iPad that someone often uses to watch YouTube, which I mostly ignore, but the use of visual technology can keep the mind active. I do keep my phone on my end table as my alarm and for emergencies if my son needs me. It is on vibrate, so often I don’t hear a text, but emergencies require a phone call, and I hear that buzzing. But all other notifications are disabled. Technology can be addicting, so try weaning yourself off and see what happens.
Essential Oils Diffuser: I have started using a diffuser to help with my sinuses and overall health. Click here to read other reasons to use a diffuser. I do have a diffuser in my bedroom and have used it a couple times. Lavender is especially helpful for sleep. It can be used in a diffuser, a tad placed under your nose or a lavender scented satchel under your pillow. I have to say the diffuser kept interrupting my sleep. It wasn’t loud, but I heard dripping and the light stays on, which even with my eyes closed bothers me. But it works for many people and is an option.
Updating to do lists: At the end of the day, I make it a point to review what was on my task list and shift anything not done to the next day or reevaluate if I even need to do it. It might be something that isn’t necessary to be done that week, so can be changed to a future date. Writing any thoughts on a project or recording creative ideas remove them from my head, so I can relax quicker.
Journal: I write about my day in the evening for a couple reasons. It’s my daily report of my personal history and my way to filter through what went well during the day and what didn’t. It’s also my method to vent about anything or anyone that bothered me during the day. What is helpful with this process is that I don’t take it to bed with me. It’s like going to bed angry at your spouse. Before Luke and I got married, Father Tom told us to never go to bed angry. We have been able to do that for the most part, and it’s great advice. Sleep is meant to be peaceful and safe. Negative emotions affect rest. So another bit of advice. Never go to bed with your mind filled with emotions and discord. Write it out.
Meditation: Calming your mind after a day filled with activity, stress, and difficult decisions can be quite a feat. The continued practice of meditation can train your mind to turn off and focus on the task at hand, falling asleep. A simple way to do this is lying on your back with your hands on your belly or chest. Close your eyes and take deep breaths in and out of your nose. As you slow your breath, do a body scan. Starting from your feet, you can flex and relax them or notice how they feel. If you have any aches or pain in that part of our body, focus your breath on it. The purpose is to get your entire body to relax. Once your scan is done, focus on your breathing and nothing else. Release any thoughts or ideas from your mind and let them go. Tomorrow is another day to deal with them. Give your body and mind permission to relax and go to sleep.
I’m not a sleep expert. I’m not a psychologist. But as my husband notes, my cure-alls are tea, Allegra, and journaling!
What kind of sleeper are you? Do you feel rested in the morning or exhausted? Do you replay the day’s events in your mind when you lay down to sleep? What are a couple changes you can make to get more rest? Take a few minutes and write about your sleep patterns and decide if journaling can help you sleep better at night.
Keeping a journal by your bed for those last minute to do items and for dream recall is also helpful. Here’s to a good night’s sleep tonight!